When Aunty Meimu told you that she was getting married, you were happy for her because it is normal to be happy when your older sister is getting married; even though Aunty Meimu happened to be 12 years old. That day she told you, you had just returned from the football field and you had still been wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey, and your small toe had been hurting because a boy who was wearing boots had stepped on your shoeless feet. She was standing by the door and wearing her purple hijab. You asked her when and she said in two weeks and then you asked her who she was marrying and she said she did not know and even though you thought that this was very strange, you did not ask her any other thing.
On the day she got married, you did not go to the field even though your friends came to beg you to go. You wanted to see Aunty Meimu get married so you told them to go without you. Aunty Meimu did not have a wedding, she just got married. One man, whose face, like a child’s drawing book, was full of lines, came and took her in his car after he had given mother a bag of rice, some tubers of yam and a basket of tomatoes. You waved at Aunty Meimu as she left. She waved back and smiled. She was forcing herself to smile because aunty Meimu’s normal smile was full and showed all of her black gums, but that day, her smile did not even show her teeth.
It was exactly the way Aunty Meimu told you she was getting married that she also told you that she was pregnant. She was standing by the door and and wearing her purple hijab and was not really looking at you. You had returned from the field where you went to play football with your friends wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey. You did not hear her the first time so you said ‘ehn,’ and she said, ‘Hamid, I said I am pregnant.’ You did not know what to say so you did not say anything. You went inside and fetched some water from the pot and then went into the bathroom made of roofing sheets at the backyard to take a bath. Before you finished bathing, Aunty Meimu had left and gone back to her husband’s house. You decided you would go and visit her tomorrow.
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The man with the face full of lines’ house was very big but also very crowded. He had four other wives and they all had many children and so the big house was, in a sense, very small. Aunty Meimu’s room was a small detached one behind the main house. It was a single room with a small bathroom. You sat on a chair and watched her. ‘How is the pregnancy?’
She smiled. ‘It’s just two months old.’
‘I think I will name him Hamid.’ She said.
You smiled at the prospect of having Aunty Meimu’s son named after you. ‘What if she is a girl?’
‘He will be a boy.’ She assured. ‘But if she is a girl, she will be called Hamidat.’
‘Aunty Meimu, how are you, really?’ You did not know what else to say and you had wanted to ask her that yesterday before she left.
She smiled that smile that did not show her teeth, the smile that she smiled when the man with the face full of lines was taking her away months ago; the smile that was not a smile. ‘I am fine, Hamid.’ Then she began to cry. You did not know what to say. You went to the bed where she was laying and tapped her shoulder. ‘Sorry, Aunty Meimu,’ Tears had gathered in your eyes, too.
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The man with the face full of lines came into the room and asked Aunty Meimu what she was doing and Aunty Meimu quickly cleaned her tears with her wrapper so that the man would not notice that she had been crying. ‘Nothing,’ she said to him.
He told her to go to the kitchen that he was expecting his friends, so Aunty Meimu got up and went to the kitchen in the main house and cooked. When the friends of the man with the face full of lines arrived, aunty Meimu served them. But the men complained and said the food was too salty and screamed at Aunty Meimu in front of all those people and said Aunty Meimu lacked home training and could not cook a simple dish for him and his friends. You tasted the food; there was nothing wrong with it. Aunty Meimu went to her room and cried some more.
It was mother that told you. You had returned from the field where you went to play football with your friend wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey. She said Aunty Meimu’s husband came while you were away and you asked if aunty Meimu had delivered little Hamid yet. But mother only shook her head the same way she shook it the day she told you and Aunty Meimu that your father had died. And you asked mother what happened and mother began to cry and again you asked mother what happened and mother said through her tears that the man with the face full of lines had said that aunty Meimu had died from childbirth. You did not know what else to say.